McDonald’s is reconsidering the future of All-Day Breakfast

The chain is working to see whether its improved service times are more beneficial than Egg McMuffins after 10:30 a.m., says RB’s The Bottom Line.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Bottom Line

McDonald’s is working to develop its permanent menu coming out of the pandemic, and one thing that could be in for some big changes is All-Day Breakfast.

The Chicago-based burger giant is reconsidering the menu’s future after three months of improved speed and customer satisfaction without it. Sources told Restaurant Business that the company is negotiating with its franchisees over All-Day Breakfast and the look of the overall menu.  

“The reality is we still have more work to do to further analyze what makes sense,” Morgan Flatley, McDonald’s U.S. chief marketing officer, told franchisees in a presentation. “Any final decision will drive business while minimizing operation disruptions.”

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the presentation and Restaurant Business was able to confirm details in the story.

McDonald’s owner-operators overwhelmingly opposed bringing back All-Day Breakfast in a survey by the National Owners Association, McDonald’s independent franchisee group, sources said.

The association has made it a top priority to keep a more limited menu permanently, saying earlier this month that a simplified menu is the group’s top priority.

“The limited menu and ease of operations are allowing our teams to focus and provide blazing fast service,” Blake Casper, the association’s chairman, said in an email to members earlier this month. “Our teams are doing amazing work in our drive-thrus.”

For McDonald’s, the decision is a fascinating one, and highlights the challenges many restaurant companies are facing as they determine their post-coronavirus plans. Many chains, and especially fast-food chains, have reduced menus and operations during the coronavirus—and sales have still improved.

Many concepts are trying to determine how much of these changes should be permanent. It may not entirely be fair to base decisions purely on what has transpired over the past couple of months, given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic and the shutdowns of dine-in service.

Still, that McDonald’s is even considering the prospect of eliminating or reducing further All-Day Breakfast shows just how much the pandemic has shifted thinking at the company.

McDonald’s added All-Day Breakfast in 2015, generating strong sales and helping to bolster the chain after a years-long sales lull. It expanded the service the next year. Yet last year, as McDonald’s began pushing to improve speed, it started allowing franchisees to cut some items from the All-Day Breakfast menu.

In April, it cut the menu altogether as part of a host of reductions and simplifications to the menu. The company was working to improve profitability for operators, as well as service times given that all of its sales were coming through the drive-thru window.

Yet at the time, it was widely viewed that the move would be temporary.

Yet the result for McDonald’s has been surprising improvements in drive-thru service. Earlier this week, company executives said they cut 25 seconds off of their service times, a remarkable reduction.

In his letter, Casper said service times are at levels “we didn’t know were possible.”

The company is also seeing improved customer satisfaction scores. With workers able to focus on a single window, and with a reduced number of items to worry about, the service has improved.

“Since simplifying the menu, customer satisfaction scores have improved significantly,” Mark Salebra, a McDonald’s operator and chair of the internal National Franchisee Leadership Alliance, said during the presentation. “I’m proud that franchisees and the company have worked in partnership to carefully evaluate this customer feedback and decide on these menu changes that put customer preference first and ensure we can continue to deliver delicious food at the speed of McDonald’s.”

To be sure, McDonald’s has historically had challenges with a bloated menu and franchisees have frequently sought to simplify it to improve operations. The pandemic has provided at least some evidence that customers are receptive—same-store sales in May improved to a decline of 5.1% from a decline of 19.2% in April, for instance.

Earlier this week, company executives suggested that some items that were removed in March could return, and according to the Journal three desserts, two Quarter Pounders and the Bacon McDouble sandwich will come back next month.

But executives also hinted that other items may not return. And All-Day Breakfast remains a question mark.

To McDonald’s and its operators, the question is how much customers want those items, or whether they would prefer the faster service they’ve received during the pandemic—and whether that faster service is even possible in a more normalized environment.

“More than ever, customers are relying on McDonald’s to serve delicious food quickly, conveniently and safely, which is why we transitioned to a limited menu in April,” the company said in a statement. “This decision helped simplify our operations for our restaurant crew while also improving our customers’ experience. Now, we’re reintroducing some of our iconic offerings while keeping our menu streamlined. With customers at the center of everything we do, we’ll continue listening to them and evolving our menu to meet their needs.”

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